I skimmed this tread, not much on preparation and drying of tea herbs. That's important to preserve taste and medicinal properties.
I've been experimenting with tea and herbal infusions on and off for almost 40 years. Most i harvest in my garden with some harvest in public spaces (there is a spraying ban in force on public land in my town). I harvest most teas and herbs troughout the year and in as many different locations as possible. That way i hope to limit any pollution that may slip trough my selection process.
For kitchen use i only select the freshest newest leaves - preferably after a nice fresh summer rain to remove any dust. In winter i do not harvest much because in my area aerial soot deposition is at it highest in winter.
Any leaves, stems, flowers marked by any kind of mold, soot, predation, .... is tossed. Tossed stuff that is aromatic is used as potpouri, educational tool (scent awareness in kinder garten f.e.), pest controll, mulch, ....).
Most of my harvest is dried in a warm air dryer with 5 stacked sieves at a temperature between 30 and 40°C. Some herbs (fast drying stuff) are dried on a towel over a grill in a cold oven. I used to dry stuff in a dry, dark room in the attic but that works only well for mediterranean herbs in our climate.
The air dryer is the most reliable - we have used it for 18 months now. We have had ZERO loss from mold etc.....
The oven method is good enough for small batches in most circumstances but i have had some spectacular losses due to mold developping in drying flowers (flowers from elderberry (Sambucus nigra) and lime tree (Tillia) in damp weather. When it is blossom time you have to pick then or not at all.
Hanging herbs on the attic, has not caused great losses but i was not impressed with drying speed or aroma.
I prefer the warm air dryer for speed, shelf life and aroma of the product.
By harvesting only the fresh top leaves of many plants, you accomplish several goals at once. 1) You get fresh leaves untainted by air pollution, soot or disease. 2) The fresh leaves dry usually easier than fully mature leaves. 3) Supposedly the active substances are concentrated in the freshed growth. 4) Some plant react by forming 2 or more new branches near the top 2 remaining leaves. You get a better developped plant with lots of fresh growth. 5) You postpone blooming season for that plant and you insure much more flowers.
Plants that react well to this picking method are : Lemon balm, all the mint species i grow, stinging nettles, lemon verbena, ......
I wash almost all my pickings. To much airborn pollution in my region. In the list below, i'll mention it if i don't wash some harvest.
1) Wild strawberry (Fragaria vesca). I grow this mostly in pots on windowsills, in big planters and in patches in the garden. I harvest the leaves runners and flowers. The fruit is to sweet for tea to my taste but great in deserts and jams. I harvest in very small batches. It dries easily and keeps.
An optional ingredient in tea mix 1.
2) Apple mint (https://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wollige_munt
- sorry i did not spot an english wiki) is a staple. I harvest both leaves and flowers. It reacts very well to top picking. I can go over the plant several times postponing flowering for weeks.
3) Bramble. Leaves and flowers. Dries reasonably well. I pick the flowers from plants that don't produce nice fruit. Brambles can get out of controll, rigourous no mercy picking is what i do where i don't want them. I don't use the fruit in tea. I harvest in our families gardens, public spaces etc.... However i harvest only above 1 m of the ground. Foxes frequent the plants and their urine spreads parasites (in Europe - don't know elsewhere).
An optional ingredient in one of my tea mix 1. If you use it in tea, you have to sieve your tea. Brambles are prickly.
4) Stinging nettle. A great plant here. Supposedly it helps against allergies, itching and such. I believe that's correct. Even if i'm wrong it has superecological benefits (a zillion butterflies and such, munch on its leaves).
It dries easilly. In the dryer less than a day.
In a pure tea, it has a 'greenish - spinachlike' taste. At least to my taste buds. Mostly used in tea mix 1.
5) Cassis : I use the leaves for tea. They have a wonderfull flavor. Not everybody likes it. It is supposed to be good for the hart. Dries well but harvesting leaves may lead to loss of berries. In late summer most leaves turn leathery and spotty.
Mostly used in tea mix 1. When fresh, i also use in ad hoc tea-mixes/
6) Lemonscented pelargonium https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pelargonium_crispum
- Difficult to be sure about the correct name. I have several plants which do not look exactly the same. All have a strong citrus aroma and are similar in processing and use.
They are very strong scented and should be used sparingly
- might cause upset stomachs and such. When used in a mix they might overpower other aroma's and taste. Troughout the growing season i remove leaves that start to yellow. Of these leaves i use the stems for tea. Only at the end of the growing season do i harvest leaves.
This plants leaves and stems take really LONG to dry. Sometimes WEEKS. Once dry, it keeps very well. I don't use the flowers - no need to - overproduction as it is. No idea about the use of the flowers. After 2 years used stuff goes to a potpourri or education.
I use it in mixes 1 and 2. One or two leavestems in a 1 litre tea pot.
7) Lemon balm. I love this plant. The fresh aroma is really nice BUT very difficult to preserve in dried form. If not dried well, it tends to taste like stinging nettles. I prefer young fresh leaves and flowers.
The older leaves tend to get infected later in summer. Top picking gives you more fresh leaves.
At the end of the growing season or if i want to refresh a badly affected plant i cut of most green stuff. I get rid of most (miserable looking) leaves and i dry the fresh stems for tea. Even woody stems are used. Stems take longer to dry and need more time to produce a great tasting tea.
The tossed leaves, seed pods etc... are spread where i hope to establish new plants.
Lemon balm is used in mixes 1 and 2. When fresh leaves are available it's nice pure or in combination with black mint and/or chocolate mint and/or pine needles.
Young fresh leaves combine well in salads as well.
8 ) Lemon verbena. Aromatic herb goes well in salads when fresh and as an ingredient to balance liquers. Reacts well to top picking. Difficult to bring it trough the winter here in Europe.
I use it in teamixes 1 and 2 and in combination with pine needles and/or black mint. Needs only 2 to 6 dried leaves in a mix for a 1 littre pot.
9) Pineneedles. Several kinds of pine. Alle taste more or less the same. Can take really long to dry even in the dryer. Self harvesting pine needles is new to my repertoire so i'm gratefull to hear your experiences.
The overhanging (ex XXmas tree) pine shadowing my patio is sadly cut down - my neighbour feared it would take down part of my house if it came down in a winter storm. Ironic because i would have loved the tree to do exactly that (building permit troubles, sigh).
I now harvest from the wild (only fresh growth). Luckily we have some nature reserves where pine are "flora non grata" so i intend to harvest there.
Used in teamixes 1, 2 and 3 as well as pure or in combination with black mint.
10) Witte dovenetel. To EDIT.
Used in teamix 4.
11) Raspburry leaves (and only by accident flowers). I do not use the fruit in tea. Apart from deserts and jams the fruit makes an excellent combination with wine vinegar. I have autumn raspberries traded for from different sources.
I pick the fresh leaves near the top but i don't top pick this because that interferes with fruiting. Each second or third leave is picked as well as any leaves shadowing the flowers and fruit once the growing season is well under way. I find that this expose the fruit to the sun and improves the aroma. A much wanted plant that wants to escape its spot. So vigorous harvesting is OK. Combines well with stinging nettles. Keeps out unwanted fruit thieves (i'm somewhat immune to the stinging
) Birds hardly pick any raspberry fruit. I presume because the nettles hinder them flying in.
The leaves dry well and fast. Here the air dryer made a marked difference. The leaves dried in the air dryer have a liquorice aroma. Very nice.
I use the fresh or dried leaves mostly in tea mix 1.
12) Chamomile : This one i can't grow nearly enough. In the wild i have no reliable (unsprayed) sources nearby. In my region it only turns up in great numbers in disturbed soils. Mostly building sites where you cannot be sure that some nutty contractor has not used pesticides. It has a protective effect on the eyes.
Used in teamix 4.
13) Spearmint (kruizemunt) : A nice mint. I use leaves, stems and flowers. It dries well.
Used in teamix 4.
14) Laurel leaves : My mother has a big plant (2-3 m) that does well in a sheltered spot between 2 houses. The plant is an evergreen and the waxy leaves may accumulate atmosferic soot deposits. I'm very selective when harvesting and all leaves are handwashed. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Laurus_nobilis
. Wonderfull in the kitchen in soup, sauces and stews.
Used in teamix 3.
15) Lavender : I use it sparingly - my own supply is limited and the bees love it. So i only harvest flowers nearing the end of their bloom. The flowers are small and grouped together in a flowering top. The plant has a disinfecting reputation. I used in the garden to disinfect my hands when i have no water and soap handy. Dries well.
Used in teamix 1 - one flowering top for 1,2 litres - optional in teamix 3.
16) Lime flower : In my region the different lime variants/species bloom at slightly different moments in early summer. I only take the flowers. The little leaf above the flowers often accumulates soot - especially after a cold springtime). The different trees produce different tasting flowers. To my taste this tea is absolutely much better tasting after drying. Drying in the air dryer has done wonders for the quality and shelf life. If dried outside of the air dryer you must watch out for mold.
Bees and bumble bees while come for days to the place where you are drying the tea.
Used in teamix 1 or pure or in combination with fresh lemon balm.
17) Hawthorn : A recent addition to my repertoire. I had no good opportunity to collect and dry flowers but i have picked and dried fresh leaves. It dries well.
I use the plant in the build up of my berry hedge to give support and shelter to other berries in the hedge. The hedge itself preserves a favourable microclime and privacy to my garden. I started using it because i wanted to test whether i could do something usefull with the clippings.
The plant has a good reputation for the support of hart function.
Used in teamix 1.
18 ) Rose buds : I collect these in the wild and on public lands. Drying is sometimes difficult. Once well dried, the buds become brittle and you can break them and remove the seeds. I drop the seeds in good spots. The resulting tea contains hairs that may be irritating. So i sieve my tea to prevent problems. I have tried removing seeds and hairs (on the inside of the bud) before drying but that is messy and finicky work not worth the trouble with the kind of rose buds available in my area. Theoretically a good Vitamine C source but i doubt if the vitamine survives contact with hot water.
Used is teamix 1 or pure.
19) Rose flowers : Well perfumed roses make for a delicate tea. I suppose not all roses do well in tea but i have only a few years experience and i have no definite idea about what tastes best. Smallish, wild or nearly wild roses seem best but there are some exceptions. Lose flowerleaves dry easily. Complete flowers are susceptible to mold when drying outside the airdryer.
Used in teamixes 1 & 2.
20) Rosemary : My favorite kitchen herb and also nice in tea. It pick small quantities during the growing season for use in tea, salads and meat dishes. At the end of the growing season i select the best stuff from the clippings to dry for use in tea, cooking and potpourri. A robust plant that does well on a diet of stones and sandy soil as long as it has full sun and well draining soil. I noticed that tea that contains rosemary stays good longer.
Used in teamixes 1 & 3. I increase the proportion of rosemary in the teamixes if i feel a cold coming.
21) Sage : Difficult to grow in my area or at least bought plants do badly. I have had good succes growing sage from seed once i found a plant setting seed in our local soil.
I suspect varieties with less leaves on the stems are less susceptible to disease in my climate and the harvest dries and preserves better. I use both stems and leaves. Troughout the growing season i collect small quantities but most of my winter stash comes from the clippings at the end of summer.
Used in teamix 1 or when afflicted with sore troat pure.
22) Orange mint : There are different varieties out there. I have several. The big leaved, strong scented one i have tends the overgrow everything else in its growing container. In damp summers, miniscule white mots? congegrate on this mint and this damages the plant. No idea what it is. This little plague sometimes switches to the apple mint and maroccan mint nearby. When i'm bothered by this i cut back my mints, toss the damaged leaves and collect stems and flowers for drying. The mints grow back shortly and the white insects bother me no more.
Cologne mint (used in the original recipe for "eau de cologne" has similar properties. I don't use it anymore.
Stopped using orange mint in tea mixes - overpowers everything. Good pure tea to use cold on a hot day.
Good herb to use in salads.
23) Blackthorn leave : I collect the leaves of this plant occasionaly in the wild or at the edges of fields late in the growing season. Early in the season i don't harvest blackthron leaves because that's when farmers tend to spray most pesticides.
I hope to find one that fruits massively and add it to my berry hedge. I love the fresh fruit. I learned to eat it when making my first geological map. It's a great thirst relief. I'm in very small minority to love eating the fruit BEFORE freezing. The fruit is also super excellent as the basis for liqueurs.
I'm looking for extra use of the clippings i expect after adding it to my berry hedge.
Optional in teamix 1.
24) Thyme : To EDIT.
Elderberry flower : To EDIT.
Water mint !!! : To EDIT.
Black mint and Chocolate mint : To EDIT.